29 August 2011

Take a Hike

In September, residents of the areas in and around Seattle; Atlanta; Chicago; Washington, DC; Denver; and Bernardsville, New Jersey, will have opportunities to take their children out for a hike.

The National Wildlife Federation's Hike & Seek event, which is part of the organization's larger Be Out There campaign, will take place in those cities. The event features a hike (of course) along with stamp/sticker collection, wildlife displays, snacks, crafts, awards to top "junior naturalists," and photos with Ranger Rick. Registration is required. For more details about the event, click here

If you don't have children but would like to volunteer to help at the event, click here

27 August 2011

To a T

Earlier this week, I saw a person wearing a T-shirt that read, "I Play Green." The words intrigued me, so I committed them to memory with the intention of looking them up online later.

First, I discovered that I Play Green is a program from the Green Education Foundation. I Play Green focuses on making participation in sports more environmentally sustainable by recruiting athletes, coaches, and teams for the purpose of reducing waste from plastic bottles, instituting eco-friendly field management policies, and lowering the carbon footprint of travel associated with sporting events.

In and of itself, this sounded pretty cool, combining sports and the environment, both of which I enjoy. Then, I found that I Play Green was only part of a larger effort by the Green Education Foundation, which advocates for sustainability in education and the teaching of skills that will help children think critically about environmental issues. The foundation provides programs, resources, and curriculum geared toward fulfilling these ideals.

25 August 2011

Keep Your Eyes Wide

When I think about progress in changing our energy sources and reducing the negative impact we have on the environment, one of the things that bothers me is when we put in place policies now that lock us in to the old technologies that have polluted the planet for years. For example, those vehicles being produced today (the one's that don't even get 20 miles per gallon) will be around for a number of years. Another example is building new coal plants, an action that shackles us to the impacts of those plants for decades.

Truthfully, things like this dishearten me because it seems like they suggest we aren't making the changes we need to make. However, I've been reading about an ongoing, four-year-old campaign called Power Shift, which coordinates rallies, demonstrations, and protests in support of clean energy sources and against sources that pollute heavily. Learning about the campaign has returned a little hope to me.

Recent efforts by Power Shift have centered on helping a coalition of many other groups stop the proposed building of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline through the middle of the US. Here is a video from the National Wildlife Federation about the pipeline:

I like that the pipeline and other energy issues are generating this king of enthusiasm for the environment. Recent years have not brought great environmental policy to the country, and sometimes, action is necessary. Watch the following video to check out some of the protests that recently took place outside the White House:

Write On

After having my own Cooper's hawk experience this summer, I was drawn to this article from All About Birds.

It was cool to find that someone else recently had encounters similar to mine, and the writing in the article is wonderful. The author communicates a connection to the environment with passion and care. Also, the story has some great information about the birds.

24 August 2011

Just a Memory in the Future?

I was feeling a little down today, so I looked for some things that would put a smile on my face. After listening to some music and watching some comedians do their work, I felt better, so I stopped actively seeking pick-me-ups. Then, after a while, a seemingly unrelated urge to get some information on cedar waxwings overtook me. (As you may recall from an earlier post, the cedar waxwing is one of my favorite birds.)

I decided to go to All About Birds for my waxwing information. Along with tons of information about birds, the Web site has recordings of bird sounds, so I clicked on one of the waxwing calls. As they do when I hear them outside, the familiar trilling and whistling brought a smile of happiness to my face. However, I recognized the presence of another feeling sparked by the sounds. This one was deeper, and I realized just how connected I am to cedar waxwings.

That may sound fanciful, but in truth, I think the feeling is quite grounded. I have a number of special memories tied to waxwings. For instance, I remember my grandma yelling for a gun to keep the birds out of her berry patches; I remember my personal rediscovery of them near my home ten years ago; and I think of how this summer, while I was fishing, I decided to take a break and just sit and watch as a group of the birds fluttered over the creek in pursuit of bugs (I was so happy to see these old friends there).

Through those memories and others like them, the cedar waxwing has become part of me, and I think that is why I ended up at All About Birds, looking at, reading about, and listening to them today: Needing to tap in to something strong, I reconnected with an enduring element of my life.

Afterward, I thought about what would happen to me if cedar waxwings were not around anymore. I am in a part of the world where the birds live all year round, and I usually don't have to wait very long before I hear them outside (as opposed to finding the sound on the Internet); but I wonder if global warming might change that, forcing them farther north or even driving them toward extinction. I think if either of those scenarios were to happen in my lifetime, I'd lose part of myself, a part that would be hard to live without. (This is an example of what I meant when, in my top five reasons for addressing global warming, I said I didn't want to see the place I grew up changed by something we can stop.)

21 August 2011

Who Would Have Guessed?

About a week ago, I heard a BirdNote podcast about the molting birds go through around August. One of the points made in the piece was that some birds may become tailless during this time. Having never seen a bird that had lost all its tail feathers, I found the information interesting but wondered at the frequency of such an occurrence.

Well, this evening, as I was taking a walk, I saw an American robin that had no tail feathers. Instantly, the BirdNote information, which had faded to the background, sprang to mind. It was a nice feeling to be aware of and understand this strange sight.

Out and About

I've seen some exciting environment-related campaigns lately. It's enough to make me think the recent concern for environmental issues isn't just going to fade away like a fad. Many people seem to be making a lifestyle of the environment.

Below is a video from Outdoor Nation, which brings young people together to promote the importance of getting out into nature and having places to get out into. For additional information about Outdoor Nation, visit the campaign's Web site.

19 August 2011

Natural App-titude

I know that's a horrible pun (it even incorporates some redundancy). But oh well.

For those who are both tech lovers and nature lovers, a number of environment-related smart phone applications have popped up, and Danielle Brigida of the National Wildlife Federation has reviewed some of them.

As a group, the apps allow you to do quite a range of things, including identifying animals and plants and participating in citizen science by sharing your findings. Some of the apps are even free.

Brigida's review looks like it provides a good introduction to the various apps, so if you're interested, check it out.

13 August 2011

Flying High

I have been fishing since I was three or four years old, but I've never seriously taken up fly-fishing.

However, this summer, I made a conscious decision to develop my fly-fishing skills. I wanted to do so because using this method of fishing can have a smaller impact on fish. Being a catch-and-release fisherman, I want the fish to swim away without any major damage.

In one way, the experiment lowered my impact right off the bat: I simply didn't catch as many fish this year. I'm more than okay with that though because I really like the getting-into-nature part of fishing best. In addition, the process of working on my casting gave the experience an extra bit of interest. Whenever I got off a good cast or accomplished something new, I felt great satisfaction (I was growing as an outdoorsperson).

Two days ago, I got the best reward. After hooking and failing to bring in a few fish and failing to hook numerous others, I finally brought in what I am calling my first fly-rod catch (I've caught some in the past, but I didn't really have to cast much in those cases--more like just throw the fly out there). The most satisfying part of the catch was the release: The barbless hook came right out, leaving a small hole in the front of the mouth, and the fish swam away instantly. All in all, it was a great result for my first summer of fly-fishing.

I'm glad I made the switch and can enjoy one of my favorite things while doing less damage to the environment than before. I still have some things to learn and practice, but if this summer is any indication, that will be part of the fun.

11 August 2011

The Hunt for Green Ammunition

Last fall, I blogged about lead-free fishing and hunting equipment. With fall hunting season just around the corner, I thought I'd give another resource for finding such equipment.

The American Bird Conservancy has a list of manufacturers and retailers who make and sell lead-free ammunition. To see the list, click here.

Birds are heavily impacted by lead in ammunition. Some pick up birdshot with gravel, and those that scavenge eat it when they feed on an animal that has been shot by lead ammunition but never retrieved by the hunter. Exposure to lead weakens and sickens the birds, and most die painful deaths. For a story about the impact of lead ammunition, check out today's BirdNote podcast.

If you are a hunter, when you are buying ammunition this fall or any other time in the future, please consider choosing the lead-free options. As outdoorspeople, we can be leaders in bringing people together with the environment, but let's lead without the lead. Thanks.

03 August 2011

Still Haunting

I remember watching a video about marsupials when I was a kid, and one of the most memorable pieces of it was about an extinct animal called the thylacine.

The portion about the thylacine included black-and-white footage of the last thylacine. Something about those images and the story of the animal's extinction struck me. Now, I wonder if the effect was like seeing a ghost (the lingering image of something no longer here in physical form).

Well, two days ago, I read an article in The New York Times about a researcher who had gone to Australia to see rock art of the thylacine. The article has some great stuff about our relationship with nature, and it triggered the memory of that video I watched as a kid (it even has a video with some of that footage of the last thylacine). The effect was much the same as it was when I was younger.